Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Amish Groom by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Amish Groom

About the Book:
New from bestselling authors Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner, The Amish Groom (Book 1 in The Men of Lancaster County series) explores the men of an Amish community in Lancaster County, how their Amish beliefs play out in their unique roles, and the women who change their lives.
Born to an ex-Amish mother and an Englisch father, 23-year-old Tyler Anderson was raised as a military kid until the age of 6, when his mom passed away. His dad, shipping off to yet another overseas post, placed Tyler in the care of his Amish grandparents, an arrangement that was supposed to be temporary. It lasted a lifetime.
Rachel Hoeck is the young woman waiting for Tyler’s proposal. She senses that though he loves her and wishes to make a commitment to her and his Amish beliefs, part of him still wonders whether an Amish lifestyle is truly for him.
When an opportunity to connect with his father unexpectedly arises, a visit to California causes Tyler to question everything, including a future with Rachel. Will the new girl in his life, Lark, cause him to remain in the Englisch world? Or will he choose to be an Amish groom after all?
A poignant novel of hoping for romance and searching for identity, set in a beloved Amish community.
My Thoughts:
Truly, my desire was not to know the world.  I just wanted to know my place in it.”  (p 166)

Tyler Anderson’s search for God’s will is as plain and straightforward as his Amish faith.  When he begins to feel restless, he approaches the leadership of his church about the unease in his heart.  He is advised to fast and pray and listen for God’s answer.  The answer comes in the form of  a phone call from his Dad – the one who left him on his grandparent’s Amish farm eighteen years earlier.

Tyler isn’t seeking to leave the Amish community that he loves – the people most dear to him.  Rather, he is seeking God’s will for his life. He is given time to explore his father’s Englisch world in a very up close and personal way.  He is given the chance to know his half-brother, Brady, and he learns the intimate details surrounding his mother’s death and his dad’s decision to allow him to grow up Amish.

Tyler’s look outside the Amish community is done in the biblical context of seeking God’s will, and to me, that makes it a relevant and powerful novel in many aspects.  I love the openness and honesty of the characters in the story, and I especially loved Lark’s character. This is a very multi-layered story and is told tenderly and with a prayerful and contemplative feel to it.  I was drawn in completely and came to care deeply for all of the characters.  Tyler Anderson is an honorable man throughout his search, and I believe readers will be left well satisfied with the conclusion of the story!
It is with pleasure I recommend The Amish Groom! This is the first in the Men of Lancaster County series.
About the Authors:

Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books, which include the popular Smart Chick Mysteries, Whispers of the Bayou, Shadows of Lancaster County, and Under the Cajun Moon. In addition, Mindy’s plays and musicals have been featured in schools and churches across the United States.

Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.  Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.
She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Acts of God Trailer from City on a Hill Productions on Vimeo.

Award-Winning Feature Film 
Now Available on DVD
Created by City on a Hill and featuring author and pastor Bob Russell,
ACTS OF GOD asks challenging questions: 
“If God is good, why does He allow so much pain?  
How can a loving God allow suffering?”

Louisville, KY - If God is good and powerful, why do bad things happen? How can a loving God allow suffering?  Such questions weigh on nearly everyone at some point in their lives. The film ACTS OF GOD, available today on DVD, weaves the story of seven people whose lives are brought together through one tragic event.  ACTS OF GODdoes not offer easy answers, but together the characters find hope from God through relationships and their steadfast faith, as they realize that sometimes God gives us more than we can handle…alone.  
Created and produced by the team at City on a Hill, the makers of not a fan., gods at war, and most recently AHAACTS OF GOD, along with newly released ancillary products, offers a chance to explore hard questions and search the mysteries of God without offering platitudes or simplistic answers.
To bring the story to life on the screen, City on a Hill enlisted Bob Russell, author and retired pastor of Southeast Christian Church, one of the 10 largest churches in the country.  Pastor Russell helped oversee the messaging and create the resources, and he made his acting debut in the film as the role of the pastor.
Other materials already available from City on a Hill:
  • ACTS OF GOD Small Group Study and Traveler’s Journal - A cinematic, six-episode small group study, ACTS OF GOD offers insight and hope as Pastor Bob Russell uses the biblical story of Joseph to explore how, in the face of personal pain or the suffering of those we love, we can trust in the Lord at all times. The journal allows for daily personal reflection and biblical engagement (rather than filling in blanks and looking for correct answers) leading up to small group discussions.
  • Pastor’s Kit - Everything a pastor needs for a sermon series on suffering, including a data disc with 6 sermon outlines as well as artwork for promotion and a DVD with trailers and bumpers to use before messages and more. 
This set of resources is profound and personable. Suffering people can use it without feeling like their pain is being overlooked or downplayed.  Caregivers can see ways to show love and compassion.  Pastor Russell is a true shepherd, and these materials care for hurting sheep, whether they are in deep distress or daily discouragement. Using the story of Joseph from the Old Testament as a theme, Russell walks through what it means to question faith and obey while struggling.

ACTS OF GOD: Why Does God Allow So Much Pain, a trade book authored by Pastor Russell (Moody Publishers), is currently available in stores.
ACTS OF GOD DVD, Small Group Study, Traveler’s Journal and Pastor’s Kit are now available at online retailers, in bookstores and at

BOB RUSSELL: At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now, through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups. An accomplished author, Bob has written over one dozen books. Bob and his wife of 47 years, Judy, have two married sons, Rusty and Phil. In his leisure time he enjoys playing golf and is an avid University of Louisville football and basketball fan.
CITY ON A HILL:  City on a Hill is a team of creatively-gifted, passionate believers who develop powerful, cinematic story-driven media resources for ministry.  Their products – from video-driven small group studies and church-wide campaigns to faith-based films and more – stand apart in the industry because of their cinematic nature. City on a Hill resources are trusted by church leaders worldwide because they’re the highest quality, they’re easy to use and they reach right to the heart with their message.  They make effective ministry easier. City on a Hill: Story is the language of our hearts.  Media is the language of our times.  We use both to share Jesus with the World.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Promise in Pieces by Emily T. Wierenga - REVEIWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

About the Book:
A baby quilt touches many hearts as it travels from family-to-family and through generations.
After the end of World War II, Clara Kirkpatrick returns from the Women’s Army Corp to deliver a dying soldier’s last wishes: convey his love to his young widow, Mattie, with apologies for the missed life they had planned to share.
Struggling with her own post-war trauma, Clara thinks she’s not prepared to handle the grief of this broken family. Yet upon meeting Mattie, and receiving a baby quilt that will never cuddle the soldier’s baby, Clara vows to honor the sacrifices that family made.
Now a labor and delivery nurse in her rural hometown, Clara wraps each new babe in the gifted quilt and later stitches the child’s name into the cloth. As each new child is welcomed by the quilt, Clara begins to wonder whatever happened to Mattie—and if her own life would ever experience the love of a newborn. Little does she know that she will have the opportunity to re-gift the special quilt—years later and carrying even greater significance than when it was first bestowed.

My Thoughts:
Courage to Care, Courage to Connect, Courage to Change.”  (p. 25)

The Nurse’s Creed Clara learned when she became a Nurse serving in the Army during WWII, becomes an accurate portrayal of her life in Emily Wierenga’s debut novel , A Promise in Pieces.   This novel is such a tender, poignant picture of Clara’s life from her headstrong young adulthood to her days as a woman full of years and grace.  I can honestly say this novel has touched something  deep within my heart.  I’ve witnessed forgiveness, grace, mercy and redemption in equal measure in my walk along the lif-path of Clara as she tells her story.

I don’t want to give ANYTHING away, but this novel is PACKED.  Every life circumstance is seen from an almost divine perspective.  Because it is told in remembrance  the reader is able to understand the fullness of the experience.  Each friendship, each loss, each victory, each challenge, all of it is literally woven into the tapestry of this story.  You will laugh.  You will cry.  You will sing.  You will rejoice.  Truly, as concise as this book is, it contains a lifetime that will impact your heart in a powerful way!!

The story never felt rushed.  Never felt scattered.  It is a rich, full story of Clara’s life that is…simply amazing!! And this is a debut novel folks!! There is more to come!! I can’t WAIT!!!

About the Author:
Emily Wierenga is a former editor, ghostwriter, freelance writer and staff journalist, a monthly columnist for The Christian Courier, and the author of Save My Children (Castle Quay Books, 2008), Chasing Silhouettes (Ampelon Publishing, 2012) and Mom in the Mirror (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). Emily resides in Alberta, Canada. This is her first novel.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lip Reading by Harry Kraus - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Lip Reading
David C. Cook (March 1, 2014)
Harry Kraus


A Word from Harry:

I started writing my first novel during my last year of surgery training at UK. I was a chief resident, and started writing Stainless Steal Hearts in a call room at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Lexington. It was a crazy time to write! I had a very demanding schedule, often spending days and nights in the hospital. I had two sons at that time, and I recognized the wisdom in my wife's urging: "Now doesn't seem the right time for this dream."

My experience as a writer is far from typical. Having received my formal training in biology and chemistry and medicine, my only preparation for a writing career was a love for reading. The longest thing I'd written before my first novel was a term paper in undergraduate school. My first novel was accepted by Crossway Books and published in 1994, and it wasn't until after I had FOUR published novels that I even opened a book of instruction about the craft of writing fiction. This is not what I recommend to others! Yes, I was successful, but I was bending the "rules" without knowing it. I had a natural talent for plotting, but I realize my initial success may have stunted my growth as a writer. I'd have made faster progress if I'd have gone to the fiction teachers sooner.

I have three sons: Joel, Evan, and Samuel. Look closely in all of my books and you'll see them there. My lovely wife, Kris, provides the basic composition for all those beautiful, athletic, dedicated women in my novels.


She Could Save Millions, or Save Herself

She just needs a little longer. She’s really close. Dr. Rebecca Jackson, a medical researcher, stands on the verge of a breakthrough that will transform medicine. But she soon discovers the reason behind the miraculous progress in her research, and it leaves her with a nearly impossible choice . . . and little time to decide. More than her research is at stake. And more threatens it than this latest revelation. Something she’s tried hard to cover up. There is a high cost to some things in medicine and it’s not always the patient who pays. Can Rebecca find the faith and wisdom she needs to make the right call? The clock is ticking and the pressure is on.

My Thoughts:
“And maybe we don’t see the message behind the pain.  Maybe God is simply trying to redirect our attention toward Him.”  (Noah to Becca)

At the point Noah speaks these words to Becca both she and Noah have suffered their share of pain, broken dreams and redirection.  God’s work has tenderized Noah, while Becca has driven herself deep within her career and away from the pain of relationship with God or anyone who follows Him.  Noah and Becca are both world renowned scientists on the brink of a life altering discovery.  They both need the knowledge the other possesses.  What neither ever anticipated were the pressures and absolute deadlines that were about to be placed before them.  Both will be called to make decisions that will change the eternal destination of many!

Harry Kraus fascinates me because he is both a surgeon and a fiction writer.  He has devoted his life to serve others, and God has blessed him with the ability to share intense medical thrillers with a broad reading audience.  Lip Reading is the best yet, and it contains so many twists and turns until you are literally left gasping for breath through the final chapters.  I don’t know when the stakes have been any higher or the end result any more satisfying!!

When I read the opening chapters I never dreamed the circumstances would be so personal or the consequences so grave.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the way Kraus weaves in true medical scenarios throughout the story that both fascinate and terrify the readers with their reality.  You don’t want to miss Lip Reading!!  It is absolutely fantastic!!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Lip Reading, go HERE.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

River Peril by Susan K. Marlow - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Jem Coulter thinks his family is just on a sightseeing trip to the big city of Sacramento. Then armed bandits hold up the stagecoach for the secret stash they’re carrying: gold for the Union Army fighting the distant Civil War! Suddenly war isn’t so far away; it’s right there on the road to Sacramento, with Jem’s father, the sheriff of Goldtown, fighting against the rebel army’s Knights of the Golden Circle.

When the family finally reaches the city, they think they’re safe at last. Setting out to see the sights, Jem, his sister Ellie, and their cousin Nathan make a new friend. But is Henry the pal they think he is? With a father who is a die-hard Confederate, could Henry be in cahoots with the thieves?

River of Peril gives readers ages 8 to 12 the fast-moving, exciting adventure they’ve come to expect in this series, as well as a glimpse into the history of post–Gold Rush and Civil War life in 1860s California, with stagecoaches, steamboats, stowaways—and lots of gold!

My Thoughts:
Boilers are tricky things.”  (p. 65)

Stage wagon bandits, top secret gold shipments and the teeming city of Sacramento, California are among some of the many things that fill the Coulter family’s world in the fourth book of the Goldtown Adventure series – River of Peril.  Once again, Susan Marlow cleverly ties together many strands of a story line that leaves Jem Coulter and his family perilously close to and among many dangerous people and places.  I was thoroughly entertained at the intricate plot twists and the fast paced story telling.

I am well beyond Marlow’s target age group – boys between the ages of 9-12 – but a well-told story is not limited by age!  It thrills my heart to know that there are such wholesome, entertaining and adventuresome books for young boys!

You can read my review of the third book in the series HERE.  I would encourage folks to purchase this set of books for the young readers in your life and to consider donating a set to your local library as well.  It would make a sound investment in the future of young readers!

Roasted Rattlesnakes!  What are you waiting for!? 

About the Author:
Susan K. Marlow has an imagination that never stops! Whether she’s writing books, teaching writing workshops, or sharing what she’s learned as a homeschooling mom, she’s always on the lookout for a new story. The author of the Circle C Adventures and the Circle C Beginnings, Susan enjoys relaxing on her fourteen-acre homestead in the great state of Washington.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Canyon Danger by Susan K. Marlow -REVIEWED

About the Book:
Jem Coulter’s pa, the sheriff of Goldtown, is away on a trip to deliver a prisoner to Sacramento, and he has left Jem in charge of the ranch—along with Aunt Rose, that is.

No sooner is the sheriff gone then trouble starts—a dead calf, a mysterious stranger, and then Pa’s horse, Copper, and his prize rifle are stolen. And Pa’s deputies seem unconcerned.

Jem and his cousin Nathan find Copper’s tracks end at a dark canyon up in the hills. Jem remembers an old Indian legend Strike-it-rich Sam is fond of retelling about people disappearing and no one ever seeing them again. What is the real story of the canyon of danger? Have thieves found the perfect hideout?

Readers ages 8 to 12 will be entertained by the adventurous spirit and historical lure in this fast-moving series that teaches about life in the post–Gold Rush days of 1860s California. Quick-paced plots and unforgettable characters make these books fun for the whole family.

My Thoughts:
Find Copper?  Or shoot the wolf?  Oh, wait. I can’t.  On account of the rifle was with Copper.”  (p. 57)

Twelve-year-old Jem Coulter gets himself into quite the mess in Susan K. Marlow’s young adult book, Canyon of Danger. This is the third installment in the Goldtown Advertures series, so it was my first introduction to his life in Goldtown, but I can tell you now, that I can’t wait to go on another adventure with this winsome young man!  He dad is the sheriff of the town, and he has left Jem to act as the man of the house while he is away.  In short order, he loses or misplaces several important items and then experiences a frightening catastrophe trying to keep the cattle protected from a wolf. 

His curiosity combined with a sense of responsibility proves to be the catalyst that lands him in a very precarious and dangerous place toward the end of the story.  Apparently Jem is prone to such adventures as being trapped in a mine is referenced a couple of times.  I am thankful the townsfolk and his family know him well enough to have a fit of vapors if he goes missing for any length of time!

Marlow has completely captured the adventurous spirit of young boys!  I love the pace of the story, the realistic characters and life circumstances, the loving family – everything!  This is a wholesome adventure tale for young readers, and I am happy to recommend it to you! 

Please join me again tomorrow for a look into the next book in this great series!

About the Author:
I started writing stories when I was ten years old. I never planned on becoming a published author. I just liked writing stories. But eventually others found out about my secret "writing" and encouraged me to submit.
I love to teach. I taught in Christian schools before I home schooled. After twenty years, I finished home schooling but find myself "back in the saddle" as I help other home schooling families, including my grandchildren.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley REVIEWED

About the Book:
From the servant halls of Cleopatra’s Egyptian palace to the courts of Herod the Great, Lydia will serve two queens to see prophecy fulfilled.
Alexandria, Egypt 39 BC
Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra's palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm's length. She's been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.
But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she’s had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.
Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family—his sister, his wife, and their mothers—and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.
My Thoughts:
A flutter of something tickled her belly – apprehension, excitement.  Destiny?  (p. 97)
Tracy Higley has left me with my mouth gaping this time!! WOW!!  Truly, she is the master of historical fiction!  She takes an obscure palace servant – Lydia – and builds a story that is intense from the beginning.  Danger, drama, complex relationships….and it builds and builds….it builds until you think to yourself, “There is no way this will work out!”  And then….the entire picture slowly comes to light and you are blown away!  I mean, this is a very well thought out, historically accurate, complex story line that brings ancient history to brilliant light!  I love it!!

Lydia captures my heart from the beginning, because it is blatantly clear that she has struggled with the lack of history surrounding her very existence.  Her deepest longing is to know who she is and where she came from.   Just at the moment when she begins to catch a glimpse of her past, her destiny beckons her  - or rather, violently shoves her – into her future.  Although struggle, violence and dark emotions surround Lydia’s character, Higley beautifully reveals  God’s sovereignty in the path of her life’s purpose.  I think that’s what intrigues me most.  It is just beautifully woven throughout the story, and when the truth grabs you….well,  you are left with your mouth gaping at the brilliance of the truth.
I’m a long-time fan of Tracy’s work, and The Queen’s Handmaid is truly one of her most brilliant works!  Her passion to discover the history that surrounds every event on the planet is palpable.  She gets better and better with each novel!  I will always be a fan!  Bravo!!
About the Author:
Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at age eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has authored many novels, includingGarden of Madness and So Shines the Night. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures. 

See Tracy's travel journals and more at: